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The Romance of Tristan

The Romance of Tristan

by Béroul

The Romance of Tristan Part 19 Summary

The Death of the Lovers

  • Back in Brittany, Tristan helps Kaherdin carry on a love affair with—surprise!—the wife of another knight.
  • One day as they are leaving the knight's castle, the rival knight's retainers attack them. Kaherdin is killed and Tristan badly wounded.
  • Tristan knows that only Yseut the Fair can heal his poisoned wound. He sends a messenger to her, bearing her ring.
  • If Yseut returns with him, the messenger is supposed to raise white sails on the ship; if not, black sails.
  • Once the messenger reaches Cornwall, Yseut immediately leaves for Brittany with him.
  • No longer able to leave his bed, Tristan asks his wife to tell him the color of the sails when he learns that the ship is in sight.
  • Yseut of the White Hands has overheard Tristan's instructions to the messenger and, out of jealousy, decides she's not going to roll with this game. She goes and tells Tristan that the approaching sails are black.
  • Believing that his beloved Yseut has failed to come, Tristan dies.
  • When Yseut reaches Brittany, she knows from the people's lamentation that Tristan has died. She hurries to the palace, where she kisses Tristan then dies embracing his body.
  • The bodies are taken to Cornwall, where King Mark has decided to give them an honorable burial in the church there, one on either side of the apse.
  • A story is told that two trees with intertwining branches grew up over their graves. King Mark had the trees cut down three times, but each time, they grew back. It is said that the love potion was the cause of this miraculous growth.

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